Wearables have received a lot of mixed receptions. Some people herald them as a major step forward for personal technology. Others view them as frivolous and not likely to experience the same adoption rates of other devices with similar hype. These detractors are likely to point out that the concepts behind many incoming machines like Apple Watch and HoloLens have been tried before – and failed spectacularly – to generate excitement.
Many people believe that Apple Watch is doomed to the same fate as Android Wear. These same people also think that HoloLens will be destined for the shelf in the same way Google Glass was pulled. But there are many differences between new and old wearables that give them much more of a leg-up than their predecessors of similar nature.
Businesses have to start getting ready for wearables. Apple Watch and HoloLens, unlike the devices that came before them, are expected to start appearing in enterprises all over the world upon their release. Companies must figure out how to use them to their advantage, and the only way to do so is to invest in custom software solutions.
Apple Watch generating optimism
Smartwatches are not a new thing at this point. Even before Apple announced its foray into this segment of the tech market, there were other companies trying to figure out how these devices could be best used in relation to the smartphone.
One of the biggest attempts came in the form of Android Wear, which of course was the effort made by Google to beat Apple to the punch. But Android Wear did not sell as well as expected. According to research firm Canalys, the device shipped 720,000 units out of 4.6 million smartbands total in 2014. This means that Android Wear was outperformed by Pebble, a company that focuses solely on fitness wearables rather than being a multi-function assistant.
So what happened? Why did Android Wear fall flat?
According to NetworkWorld contributor Colin Neagle, one of the biggest complaints about Android Wear was battery life. Smartwatches represent a very limited space in which to include energy reserves. Apple has already made it a point to discuss its efforts to maximize battery life, and success on this front could allow the smartwatch market at-large to officially take off – something that will be sure to quell those that still see no potential for the device. According to Neagle, analysts for J.P. Morgan Chase believe that Apple will succeed and its stock will increase, as a result.
HoloLens isn’t trying to be Google Glass
Microsoft announced the HoloLens within one week of Google canning the Glass Explorer program. To some, this was a bold move – one that generated a lot of questions about Microsoft’s work. The memory of Glass was still fresh and it turned many people off of the idea of wearables altogether. What does HoloLens have that Google Glass doesn’t?
Microsoft is going with a different strategy altogether with the HoloLens. Rather than being something that the user wears during all hours of the day, HoloLens aims to be a task-based augmented reality headset that’s worn only during use. By taking this route, Microsoft was able to be more liberal with the design and permit for a larger device. Google sacrificed a lot of capability in order to make Glass as unobtrusive as possible and still found that it drew far too much attention. This not only made the people wearing Glass uncomfortable, but everyone else around them as well. Nobody likes feeling like they’re secretly being filmed, and the front-mounted camera on Glass led to many an accusation.
Because it is not meant to be worn constantly, HoloLens is able to be used as a wearable computer. Devices like smartwatches are supposed to be used in tandem with another tool like a smartphone or tablet. HoloLens is a self-contained device, therefore giving it a wider range of potential. According to Network World contributor Jonathan Hassell, this will give it a huge advantage in the enterprise. While gaming was one of the more obvious applications, office life is likely to change in significant ways.
“This device can be used in business collaboration settings,” Hassell wrote. “Imagine an interactive business review, where you literally move numbers around on a page. Imagine an earnings presentation where you can actually transform bar and pie charts to answer questions and derive insight. Even consider an analytics angle: What if you can take a virtual walking tour of all of your New York customers’ buying habits in a certain Brooklyn location?”
The first big step in portable computing was the laptop. Today, it could very well be the HoloLens.
Unlocking the power of new wearable devices
While it’s possible that an organization’s first taste of HoloLens and Apple Watch could be through employee-owned devices, businesses have to get serious about strategies now. There is no doubt that people will try bringing these devices into the office, so even if a company sees no use for them on the surface, they may have to dig a little deeper. In what ways could Apple Watch and HoloLens help to streamline or simplify an essential operation? This will be the major question at the forefront of all successful wearables strategies.
But just as important as planning is execution. Allowing workers to select what software they’ll run on these devices in conjunction with company-owned data can have disastrous results. Either apps will be poorly designed and prone to security breaches or there will exist a lack of cohesion between colleagues who are using several different programs to complete one specific task.
This is why enterprises that wish to succeed with wearables have to invest in custom software development that considers them. Businesses need to provide their staffers with the ability to succeed, and that means taking a special interest in the tools that they use. Apple, Android and Microsoft devices are trustworthy and powerful in the workplace, but the software to make these attributes a reality may not be readily available. Providing custom mobile app development will be the key to staying out ahead of the wearable revolution.